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Provence, in the south-east of France, has always been a very popular spot for vacations. Many world-renowned celebrities come here, too. And ever since our first trip there, we quickly understood why. The scent of lavender floating in the summer breeze, the gentle sway of olive trees on the hillside, the empty streets of high-perched villages lit by the sun… It is a region that thrills all your senses. Not only does it reward you with breathtaking panoramas and perfect tranquility, it also has generous cuisine and this overwhelming smell of lavender fields. Making a selection of just ten most beautiful places in the region wasn’t easy. Nonetheless, here’s our top 10 of most stunning, unmissable towns and villages to visit in Provence.
Cassis is no longer a hidden gem as its reputation is now well established. Nevertheless, with its lovely fishing port, this small town of 7,000 inhabitants offers a pleasant break from other more popular port towns in Provence. And you will be amazed by the setting! While winegrowing is now the main activity in the region, Cassis has kept its atmosphere of an idyllic fishing village, with its pastel-colored buildings looking over the port. Go up the path linking Cassis to La Ciotat and go as far as Cap Canaille to enjoy the most stunning views!
Avignon is probably best known in Europe for historical reasons. In the 14th century, it was at the center of the religious conflict. Back in the day, Pope Clement V took refuge in Avignon and moved the “headquarters” of the Catholic Church out of Rome for almost 70 years. It is one of the top 10 must-see towns and villages in Provence, in particular for its sumptuous Palais des Papes (official site here). The palace still stands proudly above Avignon today, surrounded by a very lively city center (especially kf you come in summer). To taste the flavors of the region, take a tour of the Les Halles market. Have a drink in one of the vast patios. Stroll through the many shops in the city. Just enjoy the moment in Provence.
Often classified as one of the most wondrous villages in France, Gordes offers a charming blend of a traditional village built on the hillside and a chic resort. The area is a popular summer retreat for celebrities, but the atmosphere is very unpretentious. This idyllic setting includes a fortress overlooking the city. Built on a Roman foundation, the Castle of Gordes was extensively renovated during the Renaissance.
Have you already taken a stroll through the city’s surprisingly cosmopolitan shops and restaurants? Then don’t miss the ruins of Glanum, a Celtic-Roman town. Its Arc de Triomphe, which dates back to the first century BC, has remained intact until our days. Furthermore, the town has also been classified within the Alpilles regional natural park since 2007. So if you love the altitude, from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence you can access the small mountains of the Alpilles and their white limestone rocks.
The small village of Porquerolles is almost “brand new” compared to most of the other communes of Provence previously mentioned. Built in the 19th century, it has an atmosphere that reminds more of an Italian port town than that of a hilltop village of Provence. Purchased from a private owner in the 1970s, Porquerolles is a protected development area. Luckily, it allowed to preserve its natural beauty and keep it somewhat untamed. This is why it could not be missed in our selection of the 10 must-see towns and villages in the region.
At sunset, the village of Roussillon (official site), well nested in the Luberon, lights up. And this is not because of the lampposts. Its red and orange buildings blaze in the light. The unique color palette of the place is due to its location, right in the heart of the continent’s largest ocher deposit. The quarries were to be found here until 1930. And if you’re up for even more colors, take a walk on the Ocher trail … Today, Roussillon is often ranked among the most breath-taking villages in France. Is that not enough for you ?
The castle of Barroux, dating back to the 12th century, sits right on top of a hill. The city revolves around its walls. If you take a walk, you can discover vineyards and olive groves that stretch proudly against the wind. In addition, on a sunny day, you can even see Mont Ventoux in the distance.
Vaison-la-Romaine is a charming mix of old and new. It is famous for its steep medieval-era streets that lead up to Chateau Hill on the south side of the Ouvèze River. In this unmissable place of Provence, above the Roman bridge dating back to the first century, you will find the oldest establishments of Roman origin. For a long time, the city was sitting on a real archaeological treasure. Today, we know that this archeological site that stretches on nearly seven hectares. Most of the town is full of cafes and shops selling the region’s lavender and olive products.
Hidden in the Gard, west of the Rhône, Uzès is a gem that its inhabitants want to preserve at all costs. Indeed, the town doesn’t fall short of the charming authenticity you can only find in Provence. If you get here, do not miss the Sunday market, one of the best in Provence. It is held weekly under and around the arcades of Place aux Herbes.
Unlike the hilltop villages which attract thousands of tourists to the Luberon each year ( official site ), Lourmarin is humbly located in a plain, surrounded by olive trees, vines and almond trees. Don’t be fooled by its small size, Lourmarin is often considered one of the most picturesque villages in Provence. Furthermore, it is a perfect village for a gourmet stopover. For instance, several of its restaurants have Michelin stars And for those passionate about literature, know that Lourmarin was the last place of residence of Albert Camus. So if you want to know more about the philosopher’s life in the region, don’t miss out on- a “literary walk” organized by the town hall.
Would you add anything else to this selection? Indeed, it is quite subjective and honestly, Provence has just too many marvellous places to discover. Let us know what are your favorites in the comments.